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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Is God Fair?

"But that's not fair!" I've heard this protest often in my life, and been the one protesting on more than one occasion. Recently, however, I've heard this charge in response to how the Bible presents God's dealings with us sinners. No matter your views on predestination, election, and God's sovereignty in regards to salvation, the Bible is unequivocally clear that some will go to heaven and others to hell. However, all three of those themes (predestination, election, and sovereignty) are present by name in the Bible, and every fair biblical scholar must have room for them in his or her theology.

So let me give you a definitive answer right now, God is not fair. Erase that category for God in your mind. Fairness is never an attribute that the Bible gives to God. This may surprise a lot of people, but it isn't in there.

However, before you jump to any conclusions, let me clarify something. When I say that God is not fair, I am simply saying that God does not act equally and identically towards all people. It is not the same as saying God is not just or not right in His actions. I am simply saying that God acts differently towards different people.

This is not to say that God acts wrongly. All of us, as fallen and rebellious human beings, deserve God's justice and condemnation to hell. God would be perfectly just in saving no one. This would be the end of every single person if not for the grace and mercy of God. But due to this grace and mercy, God exercised His justice and condemnation upon Jesus on behalf of all those called as saints. In this way, God's justice is not ignored or denied, but rather fully satisfied.

Thus we see that God acts out His justice and judgement on some, and He acts out His grace and mercy on others. However, in both these actions, God does not act unjustly on anyone. Of course, this is where the protest comes into play, "That's not fair!" And I must ask "Who told you God must be fair?" To say that God must be merciful and gracious to everyone equally it to nullify mercy. Mercy is never something that is obligatory, mercy is something that God does freely and voluntarily. Mercy by definition is something that God doesn't have to do. As soon as you say God "owes" us mercy, you aren't talking about mercy anymore.

So we have two categories of humanity, those who receive mercy and those who receive justice. But (and here is my point) nobody receives injustice. No one has ever received injustice at the hands of God. So while God is not fair, it really works in our favor as we receive grace and mercy rather than the justice we have earned. Thus, God is not fair and I thank God for it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Merry Cliche' Christmas

I don't know about you, but Christmas has always been an exciting season for me. From an early age we are conditioned to equate Christmas with presents, breaks from school and work, good food and lots of it. And in recent years, the holiday also brings the annual battle between the secular and religious entities that some choose to fight to "Keep Christ in Christmas". For myself, that is not a hill I am willing to die on. However, another tag line that has been so often used as to become cliche' is the subject of my blog today. I would like to challenge your response when you are encouraged to "Remember the Reason for the Season".

When I heard this incitement in the past, my thought process was as follows: "Jesus is the reason for the season and I know that. I know that He became a baby and lived a life so that he could die for me and save me from my sins. So remembering the reason for the season means that I should think of the sacrifice He made for me and celebrate the life I have in Him."

Did you notice what I did there? Yes, perhaps I hit a part of the "reason for the season", but it was only the part that revolved around me. If I could come up with the most selfish version of Christmas, that was it. If I may be so blunt and honest, I almost turned such a message into just another present, no different from the rest under the tree. Notice that my thought process did not call me to any change of behavior. Instead, I turned it into an item to enjoy for a bit then put in the closet for a rainy day. I boiled the Nativity down to mere sentiment that just gave me "warm fuzzies" and required nothing of me.

But the Gospel and His advent were for the poor, the needy, the broken, the orphan, the widow, and the outcast. He was born among shepherds, He lived among tax collectors and prostitutes, and He died between thieves. He came for the broken, for "it is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick".

So, yes, Jesus came for me, but He also came for my insufferable, alcoholic neighbor. He came for you, but He also came for those like the boy who took nine lives in my sister's mall last week. He came for the panhandler holding a sign on the street corner. He came for my boss who fears the future. If I may be so bold, Christmas is much more about saving the lost and helping the needy than it is about patting Christians on the back. Don't turn the advent of Christ and Christmas day into just another sentimental thought. Don't turn it into just another superficial
"gift" that you receive and feel "warm fuzzies". Don't be cliche', but rather let the season change how you look at the people around you and how you think about Christmas.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tragedy Close To Home

Yesterday a young man opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle from the third floor of the Von Maur where my little sister works. He killed eight and wounded five in the Westroads Mall in Omaha before shooting himself as well. This massacre is the worst of its kind in Nebraska history and my sister was there, under the shooter, corralling customers into the backroom of the shoe department. She talked live over the phone with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that afternoon, and appeared on ABC's Good Morning America this morning. People talk about the "six degrees of separation" that exist between any individual and every other person or event in the world, but this is much closer today.

So how do I think about all that's taken place? How should we as a society think about it? Most of the people I have talked to have responded in grief (understandably) but also in anger. My reaction is not anger but a breaking heart at the thought that this was his best escape and way to "go out". People are saying, "I can't believe it happened here", but, frankly, I can. Every community has individuals who are loners, either of their own volition or by the exclusion and negligence of the people around them. A suicide speaks of a life likely void of hope, love, or joy. But murder suggests anger and hatred, and such random victims suggests these violent emotions were directed at society and humanity in general. I heard someone say once, "When a person has no hope, consequences mean nothing".

I would like to think that an event like this will cause us all to be a little less self-absorbed and start looking out a little better for the depressed, angry, and hopeless in our society. I hope that now we'll grow a little introspective and consider who in our own lives needs some love and attention to show that their lives have value. However, this is not the first time something like this has happened, and everyone seems to find a way to get back into rat race without too much life change. Honestly, my expectations are not high.

But for myself and all Christians, I have higher expectations and hopes. How are we any different from the rest of the world if all we say is "When it's your time, it's your time, make sure you're ready"? Frankly, that response is selfish and lazy. Selfish because Jesus calls us to much more than a passive assent of His sovereignty and providence spoken in an air of superiority. Lazy because it requires no change or reaction from the Christian to be more like Christ.

I hope we are daily looking for the outcasts, the depressed, the needy, and the hopeless. I hope we are ready with a caring word, a helping hand, and a saving grace. I expect much more from the Christian lot just as Christ requires much more. Christ came for people such as this, and the Good News of the life and hope in Him can truly change hearts and lives. We have a choice. We can react in mindless anger and hatred and go back to our daily lives in bitterness, or we can allow our hearts to be broken and perhaps prevent the next shooting by giving hope and loving those who need it most.